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Judgment day is here for Judiciary

 I have read with interest recent articles appearing in the press concerning the delay in the delivery of judgments by judges of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago. 

As a layman, it seems to me quite surprising that there is any foundation for serious debate on this issue. After all, the primary function of a judge is to judge. Inherent in this function must be the timely delivery of judgments. Other than illness, there can really be no excuse for delay in delivering judgments in matters which have been completed. 

The virtual silence by the Judiciary on this issue is truly regrettable and capable of being perceived by the public as arrogant. The days of justice being a cloistered virtue have long since passed. Worldwide, “accountability” and “transparency” are accepted as among the watchwords required for any properly functioning democratic society.

Our local judges, whether they acknowledge it or not, are public servants paid from the public purse. They must be held accountable to the public for the discharge of their functions—there is no question about it. Accountability is not incompatible with judicial independence. Indeed, lack of accountability is the seed of tyranny. 

On a daily basis our citizens, rich and poor alike, attend before the criminal and civil courts to account for their actions and to receive punishment or provide either compensation or remedy for their wrongs. With specific reference to the world of work, employees are routinely dismissed or suspended for failing to discharge their duties to employers and are oftentimes ordered by the courts to pay damages to their employers for breaching duties owed to them. It would indeed be a huge and unacceptable irony if those who are hired to administer justice are immune from accounting for the unjust consequences which flow from the delay in delivery of judgments. 

The Chief Justice and other judges enjoy tremendous power and perks such as tax free vehicles, diplomatic passports, overseas travel allowances, chauffeur allowances and generous tax free salaries. 

With great power comes great responsibility. It is now high time for the Judiciary to account to its ultimate employer—the people—and publish detailed statistics concerning matters in which judgments have been delayed for more than six months and disclose the names of the individual judges responsible for such delays. 

Failure to do so will no doubt be perceived by a large majority of the public as judicial arrogance and haughtiness.

 We are all, after all, mortals all, and make no mistake judgment day is now here for the Judiciary. 

Ramon Alexander 

Santa Rosa

 
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